The Sporting Life
by Dennis Doyle
Jackpot at No-Name Creek
You just can’t figure that ole crab
The maiden run for my trotline last week looked like a loser from the get-go. We were crabbing in a mid-Bay creek and using a new setup I had constructed the week before. The 14-inch dropper lines, known as snoods, were of bungee cord, and the flat line was 900 feet of recently purchased, braided synthetic about one-quarter inch in diameter. New lines can be poor at catching crabs, and the reasons soon became pretty obvious.
Though I had soaked it for a day in a river near my home, it still had that lingering odor unique to new rope, and the clean white virtually glowed in the off-colored water as we laid the line that morning. Unless the crabs were unusually cooperative, there could be a problem. We let it set for about 15 minutes while we prepared the roller and positioned the baskets, then motored to the first buoy and picked up the line to start.
The first run of a trotline can be very productive and is usually indicative of the action that will follow. But as we eased the skiff down the line, lifting bait after bait over our roller, our set wasn’t attracting much business. Not a single crab.
There was hardly 75 feet left at the first hint of action. My friend Mike Ebersberger was manning the net, and both of us noticed the angle of the trotline increasing as our boat approached the next bait. Something was holding it down. I was thinking it might be a hungry turtle when a bulky white-and-blue shape slowly loomed up from the silty murk.
Making a deep lunge with the net, Mike came up with an astonishingly large crab. It was as wide as the net, furious and mere inches from ejecting itself back out of the wire web. We both yelled simultaneously with the fear of its escape. Mike made a desperate effort to get the monster aboard. It was a close call, but he finally got it into the crab basket. We stopped the boat.
This rascal had to be measured. That turned out to be risky: Its claws were massive, and the huge crab wielded them like a dervish. As close as we could get with the tape showed close to nine inches point to point. With a celebratory whoop and declarations of our incredible talents, we started up again, this time distinctly hopeful.
It wasn’t 10 feet before another jumbo came up and was netted, then another. The three whopping crabs almost covered the bottom of the bushel basket. The smallest was well over eight inches. Normally three crabs is scant success for a 900-foot run, but the size of these tasties changed our perspective considerably.
The next run we again netted only three, but once more they were giants, none smaller than eight inches. As we switched positions, Mike minding the motor and me taking a turn at the net, my friend observed, “If we only catch three like these every run we’ll have a full bushel in about 10 more runs.” Little did he know.
A dozen runs later, by 11:30am, we had way over a bushel, and the crabs were all enormous: very few under seven inches and most over eight. Declaring a victory, we pulled the line, covered the baskets and headed back.
On the way we tried to fathom why, in spite of the new outfit, we had such an outstanding catch. Had no one fished the creek in a long time? Perhaps. Could it have been the snoods? These crabs all stayed on the baits until the last minute, something big crabs rarely do on a standard flat line. We hardly missed netting a single one.
Could it have been the off-colored water? It certainly cut down on the sun’s penetrating rays, something all crabs dislike. We had lots of questions, but could only guess at the answers. As a waterman friend of mine is fond of saying, “You just can’t figure that ole crab.”
We called the body of water we crabbed that day No-Name Creek for reasons that are probably obvious to you by now. It is somewhere south of the Bay Bridge, secluded and we’ve rarely encountered any other crabbers there. It doesn’t look like much.
We don’t plan on returning to the creek especially soon. Both Mike and I reason we put about as much pressure on the crab population as a piece of water that size could stand. Sometime in August, though, we do intend to make a return trip. But as we recall the size of those crabs and the incredible meal they provided us and our families that evening, it will be all we can do to resist the immediate urge to try again for another jackpot at No-Name Creek.
Fish Are Biting
Success on striped bass has become erratic on the Western Shore, but the Eastern Shore remains reliable. The Sewer Pipe is hot for the fifth straight week, and the mouth of the Chester from Swan Point all the way down to Love Point has schools of good-sized fish that are cooperative at times. The mid-Bay perch fishing is good, spot remain small, cownose rays are a real nuisance everywhere and the summer bite is winding down.